Living off the fat of the legislature | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Living off the fat of the legislature

Posted By on Sat, Sep 25, 2010 at 7:02 AM

CAPITOL HILL BLDG: Taxpayers, your rent has been late.
  • CAPITOL HILL BLDG: Taxpayers, your rent has been late.

A little game day special on the life and times of Arkansas legislators.

The subject is the Capitol Hill Building, an apartment building across Fourth Street from the Capitol in which the state has invested millions to provide cut-rate housing for 48 lucky legislators, chosen by the House and Senate. The secretary of state is the building's landlord. The rents are paid to that office. Sometimes, lawmakers get behind in their rent. I know how it goes. I confess I may have sent a late check a time or two to my neighborhood property owners association.

Nonetheless, word has been going around that some legislators are worse than others went it comes to paying the rent. I finally got around to asking for the rental records last week. It turns out a Democrat-Gazette reporter had made a similar request earlier, in mid-August. Wouldn't you know it? Since that FOI request, all legislator tenants are current in their rents. Nothing like a little sunshine.

Payments have not always been so up to date. At the time the request for information for the last year was made, Aug. 18, there were four legislators past due on rent: Rep. Jon Woods (who is charged $300 a month); Rep. Nathan George ($325); Rep. Curren Everett ($300), and Rep. David Dunn ($300). (Wouldn't you like to be able to get a spiffy LR pied a terre for $300?)

I asked for a record of the last year. Using the secretary of state's office standard that legislators are considered late in rent when they are 60 days past due, the office said 10 lawmakers had fallen in arrears during the last year. When this happens, telephone notice is given to the facilities committees of the House and Senate.

The king of the slow payers? Rep. Jon Woods, the Springdale Republican. According to the secretary of state, he was a chronic late payer, notified of past due rents nine times — in November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June and July. He was also late in August. He's another of that class of lawmakers who appear to live off legislative paychecks and whopping expense claims (almost $52,000 for Woods on top of his $15,625 salary in the last year). Friendly lobbyists can, of course, also be expected to fend off hunger and thirst for the needy.

These others also had late payments, with the number of months late payments were made in parenthesis: Rep. Rick Greene (5); Rep. Ray Kidd (5); Sen. Gene Jeffress (4); Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, (4); Rep. Eddie Cooper (4); ; Rep. David Dunn (3); Rep. Curren Everett (3); Rep. Nathan George (2); Rep. Bryan King (2).

Kidd, Cooper, Gene Jeffress, Everett and George made the Democrat-Gazette's Top 20 list of expense account legislators with draws of more than $50,000 in the last year. Seems like that would be enough to cover a $300-$325 monthly rent. Maybe the state just needs a payroll withholding plan.

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